On Monday 22nd February, Zimbabwe declared it was seizing all diamond companies found to be running without licenses and turned down an offer to join a state conglomerate.
“Today the government is taking over mines in Chiadzwa and Chimanimani,” Mines Minister Walter Chidakwa said at a news conference in the capital.
“The government is hereby requesting the diamond companies to stop all operations and shut down all processes, to co-operate in the handover and takeover and to immediately vacate the mining areas without any items,” he said.
Last year, the government ordered all private diamond companies mining precious stones in eastern Marange in the eastern Manicaland province – including one wholly-owned by the state – to merge with the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company government conglomerate.
However, some companies refused to join the coalition. This led to President Robert Mugabe ordering the expulsion of five foreign diamond mining companies, “since they no longer hold any mining titles, these companies were notified this morning to cease all mining with immediate effect,” Chidakwa said.
The government-owned company was formed to recover and sell all diamonds in Zimbabwe due to allegations against private miners selling in the black market and leaving little to no revenue for the state treasury.
“It has since come to our attention that the joint venture companies have been operating illegally as permits which had been granted expired and were not renewed over the last four or five years,” Chidakwa said.
Chidakwa emphasized that the government wants to retain control over the gem stone regions in order not to prevent it from being destabilized by rogue trading.
When diamonds were first discovered in Marange in 2006, it drew a lot of miners who got involved in hopes to get rich, but the area was cleared in 2008 when Human Rights Watch reported that more than 200 people were being killed. The diamond mining industry has been so laden with reports of abuse and death that the government had to ban the export of diamonds between 2009 and 2011.